These 12 Healthy Foods Are Exceptionally High in Vitamin B
Out of the 13 essential vitamins our body needs, the B vitamins make up eight of them. Why are they so important? B vitamins play a role in metabolism as well as in cell and DNA formation, including red blood cell formation, explains Janice Chow, RD, registered dietitian and founder of The Mindful Chow in California. "Your energy levels, brain function, immune function, eyesight, digestion, nerve function, hormone production, muscle tone, and cardiovascular health all require vitamin B," adds Amandeep Kalsi, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian in California.
The Daily Value (DV) for the eight B vitamins are:
- B1, Thiamin: 1.1 milligrams
- B2, Riboflavin: 1.1 milligrams
- B3, Niacin: 14 milligrams
- B5, Pantothenic Acid: 5 milligrams
- B6, Pyridoxine: 1.3 milligrams
- B7, Biotin: 30 micrograms
- B9, Folic Acid: 400 micrograms
- B12, Cobalamin: 2.4 micrograms
(For most of these, the DV increases if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.)
Your body can't store B vitamins for long, so they need to be replenished regularly through your diet. Luckily, vitamin B foods often contain more than one B vitamin. For instance, several vitamin B6 foods, like salmon, chicken, and brown rice, are also good sources of other B vitamins. If you don't have a digestive condition or restrictive diet, says Kalsi you're likely able to get enough of most B vitamins by eating a variety of foods each week.
The only times where a dietitian or physician might be concerned about certain vitamin B levels would be if you don't eat animal proteins or if you're planning to become pregnant. Non-meat-eaters usually need to look for fortified food options, like fortified cereal or tofu, to achieve the DV of B12, Kalsi says, or may be encouraged to take a supplement. If you're planning a pregnancy, you might be advised to take a B9 (folic acid) supplement containing 100 percent DV and also eat foods rich in B9, because the development of the baby's neural tube (which later becomes the spinal cord, spine, brain, and skull) is dependent on this.
To help you include vitamin B foods in your diet, here is a list of the top ten best sources, according to Chow and Kalsi.
The Best Vitamin B Foods
Salmon is extremely high in B vitamins. Besides the omega-3 fats, eating a 6-ounce fillet of salmon provides you with over 200 percent of the DV for B12, around 100 percent of the DV for B3 and B6, 65 percent of the DV for B5 and B2, close to 40 percent of the DV for B1, and 12 percent of the DV for B9.
2 Firm Tofu
While not everyone's cup of tea, tofu is a great plant-based source of B vitamins, says Chow. A cup of cooked, firm tofu has 33 percent of the DV for B1, around 20 percent of the DV for B2 and B9, and close to 15 percent of the DV for B6.
You can also get fortified versions of tofu, which is a great source of B12 for vegetarians. Fortified firm tofu has over 100 percent of the DV for B12, 76 percent of the DV for B2, and 66 percent of the DV for B6.
3 Green Peas
If you had half a cup of peas at lunch, and another half cup at dinner, you'd be getting 35 percent of the DV for B1, 25 percent of the DV for B9, around 20 percent of the DV for B2, B6, and B2.
Cooked beef is especially high in B12, providing approximately 4 micrograms in a six-ounce serving (around 190 percent of the DV). Besides that, it has over 100 percent of the DV for B2, 60 percent of the DV for B3, and close to 50 percent of the DV for B6 and B5.
If you're looking for a creamy, savory side packed with B vitamins, look no further than guacamole. One raw avocado has more than 50 percent of the DV for B5, 40 percent of the DV for B9, 30 percent of the DV for B6, around 20 percent of the DV for B2 and B3, and around 10 percent of the DV for B1.
A rich source of folic acid, one cup of cooked spinach contains 263 micrograms of B9 (66 percent of the DV). Wilting a cup of this dark, leafy green into your curry or pasta sauce also provides 33 percent of the DV for B2, 26 percent of the DV for B6, and 14 percent of the DV for B1.
8 Brown Rice
In addition to the extra fiber, brown rice is a healthy carbohydrate that delivers serious B vitamins. A cup of cooked brown rice yields 15 to 17 percent of the DV for B1, B6, B3, and B5. Yet another great reason to start including this grain as a staple in your cooking.
If you're looking for a vitamin B6 food, your best bet is chicken. A cooked 6-ounce serving of chicken breast provides 1.6 milligrams of B6 (92 percent of the DV), 16 milligrams of B3 (100 percent of the DV), over 50 percent of the DV for B5, approximately 24 percent of the DV for B2, and 14 percent of the DV for B1 and B12.
10 Lentils (and Other Legumes)
A cooked cup of lentils provides 90 percent of the DV for B9, making it a delicious folate source for those who are pregnant and following a plant-based diet. Lentils also contain over 20 percent of the DV for B1, B5, and B6, and more than 10 percent of the DV for B3 and B2. Other legumes, like edamame (green soy beans), pinto beans, and black beans are also good sources of B9.
Mushrooms are an easy way to get vitamins B5, B3, and B2. A cup of cooked white mushrooms contains 67 percent of the DV for B5, 43 percent of the DV for B3, and 36 percent of the DV for B2. It also has vitamin B7 or biotin, providing 5.6 micrograms in a cup of fresh button mushrooms.
If you're planning for pregnancy and can tolerate asparagus, add them to your plate! A cup of cooked asparagus has 67 percent of the DV for B9. You'll also get around 20 percent of the DV for B1 and B2, and over 10 percent of the DV for B3.